October 8, 2013

A Letter to My Daughter

By Jennifer Hannigan

I took a photo of you today. I took many actually, which you’re used to. I merely have to pick up a camera (or camera phone) for you to start throwing out 4-year-old poses.

One image has already burned itself into my heart. As I write this you stare at me from my computer screen, slightly lopsided, mischievous grin on your face. Your blue eyes are getting darker and look almost brown against the arboretum’s fall pumpkins. Your hair is starting to curl a little, losing the fine texture of babyhood, and I can’t help but wonder if one day it will be curly like mine.

Our family jokes that you’re a “mini-Jennifer.” Your heart-shaped chin, your nose, and your hair are all reminiscent of your mother.

Sometimes you speak and I hear myself. Many of your mannerisms are mine. Your love of nature, your heart for others, your hunger for God are all very much echoes of me. So are some of your bad traits, but we won’t go into those. You will fight those battles just as I have. I hope you win. I hope it’s easier for you than it was for me.

Despite our similarities, I see those things that are so uniquely you. You will hug strangers when I shy away from them. You stand on stepstools in your pajamas, toy microphone in hand, and insist that I listen to tune after tune, watch dance after dance. You tell your mother, the poster child for the uncoordinated, that you want to be a ballerina when you grow up.

I see your striped sweater, falling just a little away from your neck, showing a touch of your shoulder. And suddenly I can see that shoulder peeking out from the strap of a prom dress. I see it bare, your fair skin pale against the white of a wedding gown. But in my mind, that smile is still there, slightly lopsided, reflected in your clear eyes.

From my screen I see a glimpse of the woman you will be: strong-willed, sweet, kind and with just a touch of sass.

That thought startles me, scares me as I think of you grown. Not ready for that yet. Those days will come soon enough. When the time comes, I look forward to getting to know that woman I see staring out of your little eyes. I hope we are friends.

But today you are four, and my heart rejoices in that thought.

I love four. Four is good.

Love, Mommy

October 5, 2013

A label for my niche

Yeah, I still have one.

I recently learned something important: My label.

Apparently, I am a hybrid.

This is actually pretty serious for me, because after 20 years of defining myself as a journalist I am doing something kind of different.

But it is kind of the same, too.

For those not familiar with Henderson County Now, it is an experiment in news and company promotion. It is a Facebook-first community bulletin board of information, curated and maintained by yours truly, with a single sponsor (Weinstein Law).

Actually, ”sponsor” is a bit misleading, because I am really an employee of the law firm. I also write press releases, blogs and other pieces of PR, as well as perform functions that have nothing to do with media.

So I spend a lot of time as an editor, selecting and preparing the content for Henderson County Now. But I also do straight up PR for the firm.

A lot of my old journo friends would fling an AP Stylebook at my head at the mere thought of such a schizophrenic position. I admit to my own moments of dissonance over the past nine months.

But finally there is one note ringing clear: Hybrid.

The term comes from a student journalist who was interviewing my wife as an expert at PR. They talked about the blurring line between PR and journalism and as my wife started talking about my gig, the student labeled me.

I find myself pretty happy with the new designation. Trust me when I say it is a better gig than a newsroom. With pure journalists underpaid, overworked, and literally dying at their desks, it is a great time to be a hybrid.

Just don’t try and plug me in, please.

My New Kicks

Remember how you felt when you were a kid and you got a new pair of sneakers?

I remember distinctly when I was about 7 years old being in a shoe store on Front Street in Philadelphia with my mother. I got a new pair of hightop Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars. I ran out the door and turned the corner, feeling those rubber soles grip the pavement, and then the hollow sound as I pounded over the basement doors. Man that felt great.

I got that feeling again today.

Today it was just a pair of Champions, but they fit and feel great.

The big thing is that I had gone nearly a week without sneakers thanks to a toe blowout and a tapped bank account. Not counting my time in the Army, that is probably the longest I have ever gone without wearing sneakers.

The great thing about being 51 is knowing who you are. Neil Diamond may be forever in blue jeans, but I like to live in my sneakers.

Outworking God

So, God is apparently a lightweight.

It is right there in the Bible, so don’t get mad at me for pointing it out. It says in Genesis 2:2: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (NIV)

He took a day off! And he didn’t just stay out of the office for a day. It says he rested from “all” his work.

What, he didn’t spend an hour answering email? No completing work projects? No running by the office?

He didn’t mow the lawn? He didn’t wash the car? He didn’t do laundry?

Seriously? He took an entire day just to rest? To (gasp) relax?

As for me, I don’t always take the entire night to rest. And I don’t mean to say I am anything special … I know a lot of people like me.

According to Bloomberg News, America is filled with hardworking folks:

"(I)n 1991, the average American worker put in 163 more hours on the job than in 1973, according to the sociologist Juliet Schor, the author of “The Overworked American.” Since many more families had two parents working, the increase in annual working hours per family was much higher — 500 to 700 hours more than in the ‘70s.It should be noted that increases in labor productivity are not “energy-free” advances for the workers whose productivity increases. As it happens, workers are required to get much more done and more quickly. Working hours are more draining, while the hyper-competition of today’s workplace makes them even more stressful."

God would definitely get some quizzical looks in America — a place where citizens are likely to claim his special blessings — because of his bohemian ways. Figure it like this: one day a week of rest equals 52 days a year, which is equivalent to more than seven weeks if vacation time!

Doesn’t God know what that means? How can I put gas in the car with that much time off? How can I afford a new car? How can I afford the house I want?

Doesn’t God want me to get ahead?

Bloomberg tells us we have our good, American working habits for a particular reason:

"The postwar (WWII) era, aided by the new medium of commercial television, ushered in what came to be known as “the consumer society.” Expectations for larger homes and cars soared. Easier credit brought a cornucopia of material goods within easy reach of the middle class.By the mid-1970s, and especially after 1980, median wages weren’t keeping pace with increases in our capacity to produce. But flattening incomes didn’t derail the consumption train. Americans continued to buy more, in part by going deeper into debt, by having more members of the family enter the workforce and by working additional overtime. By the boom times of the late 1990s, Americans worked more than the notoriously workaholic Japanese."

So there it is: We spend more time working than almost anyone else so we can get more stuff, including the accompanying stress and illness. … And the funny thing is we have become so accustomed to having all this stuff, that we have forgotten there was a not-very-long-ago time when we didn’t have it and didn’t miss it.

Thank God we don’t live in that time any longer.

Then again, considering he is such a lightweight, maybe God doesn’t have anything to do with where we are now.

November 12, 2012

Only the difference counts

Flickr photo by Las.
I was on the road recently and ran into somebody who reminded me of a very important truth: Nothing speaks as loudly about God and Jesus as our actions.

No amount of explanation, Bible knowledge or historical knowledge can combat the bad behavior of those who came before us ... or those here today.

We are the witness. What we do, not what we say.

Only love and mercy can soften the hearts of those who remember the crusades and modern Muslim terrorism and conclude that religion is nothing more than intolerance, a tool to control weak-minded people.

The fact that we put our faith in a supernatural occurrence (The Resurrection) makes it even tougher to talk Jesus to modern man. He can only be shown a difference.

Without the difference, we're doing nothing but flapping our gums.

November 5, 2012

Another view of Christicans

Matt over at The Church of No People is wondering "why God doesn't come to america anymore."

He writes:
If He did show up, we’d call Him crazy, or go get a prescription for Prozac. 
I know that God has a lot of competition in America. People do not want to hear or talk about Jesus. Jesus seems to have a reputation for causing more problems than he solves. His followers have a reputation for hating more people than they love.
It is not a new thought, but it is one that keeps coming back. I think about it often enough that I have coined the term "Christican" to describe that particular brand of American Christianity that seems to dominate here.

I don't think God has abandoned America, or that he needs to come back. And I don't believe Matt thinks that either -- he is just using a literary device to make a point. We all learned in Sunday School that God is everywhere present. But Matt's blog is spot on about our attitudes. 

We don't experience God's power, because we believe in our own. We don't share in God's riches, because we chase after the world's. God isn't the one who has gone away, we are ... because we've put our faith in ourselves, impressed with our riches.

What do you think?

October 28, 2012

BarlowGirl retiring

Photo from Wikipedia Commons
The members (three sisters) of BarlowGirl have announced they are retiring. The band will officially call it quits Oct. 30 after the release of the new single, "Hope Will Lead Us On."

In a letter on their website, the ladies cited "a new season."
"After much prayer and counsel we have decided that we are retiring the band BarlowGirl. We don't know what God has in store for us...He hasn’t revealed that yet. But in all this we know -- He is guiding us to move forward in our destinies and He is faithful no matter what! We are so excited for this new season because we serve an amazing God."
Here is my wife's fave BarlowGirl tune: Grey


October 21, 2012

A Godly Lesson from Hall of Fame Coach

Scotty Conley escorted at
TVCC Hall of Fame banquet.
Photo courtesy TVCC.
Last week, I attended the Trinity Valley Community College Cardinal Hall of Fame induction ceremony. My Bride is employed by the college and I had the honor of being a "Plus One."

One of the inductees was football coach Scotty Conley, who won a national championship with the Cardinals in 1997.

It is easy to believe Conley is a national championship coach. He has the natural way of a leader, and his speech was inspirational. He referenced basketball coach John Wooden's definition of success. Wooden said:
“If you make the effort to do the best of what you’re capable and improve the situation that exists for you, I think that’s success and I don’t think others can judge that.”
Conley, applying Wooden's definition to athletics, said he believed you don't worry about championships, but rather work every day to get better at your job, whether coach or player. Do the best you can every day and the results will take care of themselves.

What a great idea! But there's a complication: I'm a husband and a dad and a journalist and a son and a brother and a friend. I am also a citizen, church member and neighbor.

They are all roles that are very important. How in the world can I be the best I can be at each of them without taking away from something else?

And then I remembered the time Jesus was asked to name the most important commandment. The question was a trick, because how can you choose one command over another? But Jesus turned the tables by saying the most important commands were loving God and loving your neighbor.

Why? Because if you do those, all the other commands will take care of themselves.

So there is one way to make Wooden's definition of success work. One role that covers all the others. I just need to be the best Disciple of Christ that I can be.

If I can just do that … follow Christ closer ever day … everything else will take care of itself.

October 16, 2012

Beaker Wouldn't Snore: Why we need each other

A good friends shared this video with me this morning (thanks, Nathan) ... and it is a great reminder of why we need each other so much.

The real thorn in Paul's flesh

We wonder what "the thorn" in Paul's flesh really was ... well, cartoonist Tim Davis has the answer.

October 12, 2012

The Year of Faith

Pope Benedict XVI
On Thursday, Catholics around the world began a "Year of Faith."

Pope Benedict XVI called for the Year of Faith as "a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world."

In an apostolic letter, the Pope wrote:
Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples."
I am not a Catholic (although I was raised in the Catholic Church), but I love the call to reexamine how we live out our faith each day. I think sometimes as Christians we worry more about our political role in our culture than we do our spiritual role.

How would you observe a "Year of Faith?"

October 8, 2012

Take your hat off when eating

Flickr photo by Iokarta
I wrote this as a Facebook status update and figured there was no reason to reinvent the wheel:
So when did wearing a hat at the dinner table STOP being considered rude? .... I never got the memo .... the family just stopped at Applebee's for a little dessert, and I looked around the restaurant and 10 men were wearing hats while eating .... 9 were ball caps: 1 hip hop tilted style, 2 backward, 6 regular ... and 1 cowboy hat ... I point out the styles just to show that it wasn't a particular
segment of society; some were teens and some were on the down side of middle aged ... I estimate that someone was wearing a hat at one-quarter to one-third of the tables.
Lately, I've been thinking about the fact that I have to teach Sean the rules for being a gentleman .... but apparently I don't know what the rules are anymore.
And to beat critics to the punch ... no, there's nothing all that magical about wearing or not wearing a hat at the dinner table ... it is just the idea that I thought there was a set of "best practices" that men used when in public and in "mixed company."
Do you remember when wearing a hat at the table was considered rude?

Are men forgetting how to be gentleman?

October 2, 2012

Family Peace Project Needs Help

This comes from the Facebook Page of Marlena Taylor, director of the Family Peace Project:
"So, Shannon's Place is in desperate need...we can't move the next family in SINCE the last family took all the household items small enough to carry off...REALLY sad tonight....have a sweet family waiting for the opportunity to start their lives over...now we have to wait...Gift Cards would be SO helpful...ANYONE want to help???
(All Gone) Microwave, dishes, silverware, coffee pot, pots and pans, sheets, towels, crock pot, can opener, bake ware, pillows, blankets, curtains, ..... Dish towels, bathroom scale, mirror off the bathroom wall, shower curtain / rod"
Shannon's Place is one of the houses FPP uses to help families recover from domestic violence ... this is one of those programs that gets very little fanfare, but helps so many people in Henderson County .... if you can help now in their time of need, please do.

October 1, 2012

Worshiping the wrong thing on Sunday

Flickr photo by Gianne Carlo Chiong

Worship was awesome this Sunday! I got to pull out a little Third Day solo on "God of Wonders," and throw in a little distortion throughout the set. I was kickin' the stomp box and flippin' through the pickups.

I even had the microphone stand set up so when I step on the base, the microphone leans forward slightly so I can sing and play at the same time and feel like I'm a rock star!

After the set, I started to ask my wife how we did, but she was sort of busy herself trying to serve in a much less visible manner (patrol officer in children's church), so she cut me off and said, "I heard your dooty, dooty, dooty," while strumming an air guitar.

Talk about coming down to earth. She didn't mean it that way, but I think God did. There was way too much "me" in this week's worship, and not enough "He."

We want to do our very best for God in whatever we do, but when we become more concerned about how or what we are doing rather than why we are doing it ... well, we've come to a bad place.

Like the place I was on Sunday.